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When will we know SEPA is working?

Now this might be a really dumb question but I ask it in response to Chris Skinner's blog published on the SWIFT Community website. According to Chris, SEPA is working and he substantiates his claim by announcing various polling scores from an American audience at a recent conference. I am not sure how much relevance any poll on SEPA in the USA is but one assumes at least part of the audience has business interests in Europe; anyway I will not go through the scores here but refer you to his blog.

I now pose a SEPA question " When will SEPA be delivering benefits to Corporates and the retail user?" and the only answer must be when it is producing a catalogue of new payment services, reduced costs and timescales offered by Banks and used by its customers.  Surely announcing that SEPA is working is a bit like saying the UK's Millennium Dome was a raving success! It was built on time, but very few visited and no one benefited very much (in fact all it did was create a financial drain on the tax payer, whilst a buyer was being sort) and it was eventually recognised as a failure by all (although I can guess at least one person who might disagree).

Stating that SEPA is working and a success, is typical of the over hype that plagues the financial services industry. We just don't face up to the customer issues that are important in a service industry. The banks are about protection (especially in times we see today) and the vendors take risks and develop solutions in the expectation of sales but are totally dependent on industry implementation.

The Payments Services Directive and SEPA are a mixture of political objectives and banking solutions but the missing ingredient is the customer requirements. It would be very interesting to see the research and consultation documents of the PSD and SEPA and how the Corporates were engaged. I suspect they will be missing! The politicians and the Banks have determined what the Corporates want and how the retail customer will eventually gain. I doubt much consultation was made and we get what we are given. So how do we know that SEPA is working?

Chris would have us believe that SEPA is working, but by what criteria? If this is SEPA working can we expect anything more? Is SEPA going to take many years to provide the benefits to banking customers that it promised? Is this success?

Despite the arguments put by Chris I have to say that in my book success is when the objective is reached and the benefits are felt by both Corporates and retail customers, anything else sounds like marketing hype and a cover up of the real situation. Sometimes it's braver to admit failure and work to make it work.


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Gary Wright

Gary Wright


BISS Research

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19 Sep 2007



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

SEPA and European Payments

The Single Euro Payments Area, the Payments Services Directive, the Eurosystem, TARGET2, STEP2, the Euro and related matters.

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